Airbnb Legalized In Portland: New Approach Could Serve As Blueprint For Other Cities

 @TBarrabit.barrabi@ibtimes.com on August 01 2014 3:09 PM
Airbnb
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky smiles during a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Reuters

The Portland City Council unanimously approved a measure on Wednesday that clears up the legal status of Airbnb, but it could also serve as a blueprint for other cities locked in legal disputes over short-term room rental services.

Local residents who submit their homes to safety inspections and obtained a $180 city permit will be allowed to rent out bedrooms for periods of less than 30 days, the Portland Tribune reported. The hosts of the rental must agree to live on the premises for at least nine months of the year.

The decision allows Airbnb, which facilitates short-term rentals, to maintain its presence in Portland. The San Francisco-based company reportedly has more than 1,500 hosts in the city. Portland’s Bureau of Development Services plans to begin issuing permits on Sept. 2, according to the Oregonian, the state's largest newspaper.

In addition, Airbnb agreed in July to pay the lodging taxes that local tourists have been avoiding; Portland is the first city in which it has levied these payments. In addition, the company hopes to add 160 jobs to Portland’s economy, as well as almost $500,000 in projected tax revenue over its first 12 months of legal operation.

Portland’s newly established policy regarding short-term rentals could serve as a palatable blueprint for other cities that have questioned Airbnb’s methods. New York, New Orleans and San Francisco are just a few of the U.S. cities that have sought to restrict the company’s ability to operate.

In particular, the Portland City Council’s insistence on the implementation of a permit system could appeal to officials in New York and San Francisco; both cities have sought increased access to the names and addresses of “home sharers,” a request that Airbnb and its competitors have resisted.

Airbnb agreed in May to provide “anonymized” data on its hosts to the New York Attorney General’s Office. Under the current agreement, Airbnb only has to provide authorities with information on individuals who are found to be operating in violation of local laws.

Similarly, home sharers in San Francisco want their names and addresses kept private, while the City Planning Department wishes to publish short-term rental options on its website. The adoption of a Portland-style permit system in New York or San Francisco would allow authorities to approve potential “home-sharers,” before any such violation takes place without further infringing on their privacy.

In both New Orleans and New York, it's illegal for unlicensed hosts to rent their homes or apartments for a period of fewer than 30 days. Officials from both cities have made it clear that the ban is an attempt to protect legally-operated hotels from being undermined by illegally run or “off the books” short-term rental operations. San Francisco is a bit more lenient; at the present, the City Planning Department seeks to limit short-term rentals to no less than 90 days per year, while the hosts seek a limit of 180 days, according to free online news site San Francisco Gate, which is part of publisher the San Francisco Chronicle.

Portland forged its solution through compromise; Airbnb agreed to pay lodging taxes, the revenue from which would be funneled back into city projects. Furthermore, the city’s establishment of a 30-day limit shows that Airbnb and other short-term renters are willing to accept a less-than-ideal restriction if it will gain the ability to operate legally.

Join the Discussion